EYE NEWSFLASH: Estate agent directors disqualified for roles in illegal cartel

The CMA has secured the disqualification of two Berkshire estate agent directors after both took part in an illegal price fixing cartel.

Stephen Jones and Neil Mackenzie were directors at estate agents Richard Worth and Michael Hardy, respectively, from September 2008 to May 2015.

During this time, their firms took part in a cartel with two other local estate agents in which they conspired together to set minimum rates for commission on the sale of residential properties in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield – where they were the leading estate agents at that time.

Both have now been disqualified for six and a half years for their roles in the cartel, meaning they cannot act as directors of any companies or be involved in the management of any company based in England, Scotland or Wales during this time.

The move follows a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the cartel, which found that the four estate agents maintained the illegal activity for almost seven years.

They exchanged confidential information on pricing and held meetings to make sure all members of the cartel enforced and maintained the agreed minimum rates.

This meant that homeowners in the affected areas were denied the chance of securing the best possible deal when selling their property because they were unable to meaningfully shop around all their local estate agents for a better commission rate.

And, as a result, three of the four estate agents – including Richard Worth and Michael Hardy – were fined over £600,000 for their illegal behaviour.

Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement, said:

“Selling your home can be a stressful and expensive experience, and one that shouldn’t be made harder by estate agents conspiring to cheat homeowners out of the best deal.

“Company directors have an important responsibility to make sure their firms don’t take part in this kind of anti-competitive behaviour.

“Today’s disqualifications should send a clear message to the sector – stay on the right side of the law or face the consequences.”

The two disqualifications announced today bring the total number of directors disqualified following a CMA investigation to eighteen.

As part of the Company Directors Disqualification Act, the CMA can seek the disqualification of any director where their company has broken competition law.

It is one of a number of tools the CMA can use to protect consumers from anti-competitive behaviour.


EYE readers may recall the start of this case.

The Competition and Markets Authority imposed fines totalling £605,519 on three of the agents but let the fourth off.

The fines were imposed on Michael Hardy; Prospect; and Richard Worth (in administration) and Richard Worth Holdings, together Richard Worth.

The CMA did not fine the fourth agent Romans, as it was the first to confess its participation in the arrangement, under the CMA’s leniency programme and co-operated with the investigation.

Cartel case: Competition watchdog to publish its decision to fine three agents over £600,000




Email the story to a friend


  1. smile please

    Disgraceful Romans get away unscathed when other get hundreds of thousands fine and disqualified from being directors.

    1. RealAgent

      Totally agree, to my knowledge 4 firms were found guilty and whilst Romans may have escaped a fine for price fixing by whistleblowing, it doesn’t mean they were not guilty of it!

      Why these two people were singled out is confusing in the least, I can only assume it doesn’t pay to be a small business where the information on which is easily identifiable at Companies House. Lazy work by the CMA if you ask me and if I were these two individuals I would be feeling very aggrieved.



      1. drasperger

        Et Tu Brutus………. Romans……. quite an apposite name if you want to go around stabbing people in the back?

  2. Hillofwad71

      Blew the whistle in exchange for  leniency. Agree with Smile  Maybe leniency warranted on the fine but not  on disqualification Romans would probably have ratted on Anne Frank
    This was nothing to do with Richard  Worth personally who had already  left the practice  

    1. Property Pundit

      Who was MD at Romans when this ratting-out was going on and who was the MD when the colluding was actually going on i.e. the person who condoned it at the time. 

      1. smile please

        Think they are currently portraying themselves as an industry ‘Guru’

  3. s71

    Did Romans not profit from this Cartel!!! all 4 agents need to be charged equally as all of them profited!!

  4. Happy Daze!

    Just disgraceful that Romans executive team are not held to account. This happened under their watch so they were complicit in ‘cheating homeowners out of the best deal’. The appropriate director should, too, have been disqualified. Perhaps then they would manage their business a little tighter…..

    1. Property Pundit

      Can’t be too difficult to work out who this team was surely (won’t have been one person)? Any reason they shouldn’t be named & shamed unlike the others involved?

  5. SoldPal90

    Late topic entry on PIE and 4.5k views as I type.

    We do like a bit of muck in this game!

  6. Alan Murray

    Very surprised to see Neil Mackenzie caught in this. I have known him since the late eighties and in dealing with him over that period I always thought he was one of the good guys thoroughly knowledgable and professional. Shocked to be honest.

    As for Romans having dealt with them over the same period I am not shocked by their conduct at all. Behaviour of typical bullies. Oh the stories I could tell about that company in my dealings with them!!

  7. PeeBee

    “…and one that shouldn’t be made harder by estate agents conspiring to cheat homeowners out of the best deal.”

    Let’s not forget that these companies were all in competition with each other – and with all other Agents that operated within their areas.  They agreed – wrongly in the eyes of CMA – to set a minimum bar.  But the fact remains that despite there being other Agents… undoubtedly charging different Fees… homeowners that used these Agencies decided that they were the right Agent to market their properties for them.

    I don’t see any ‘cheating out of the best deal’ here.  If a homeowner chose on price alone then none of the four Agencies would have got the instruction.

    “The Competition and Markets Authority imposed fines totalling £605,519 on three of the agents but let the fourth off.”

    If ever there was a criminal act, it is that.


You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.